How do I make Electronic Dance Music?

Did it begin on the Southside of Chicago or in South London? Germany or Jamaica? Or was it first heard in 1940s Egypt? With the wide-ranging sub-genres found within Electronic Dance Music (EDM), it’s not so easy to get a definitive answer. Personal preference may hold sway when determining which underground dance club in which city was the first to showcase this new sound.

At first ostracized, then legitimized, and finally lionized, EDM is a wide-open umbrella that encompasses a great many sounds, tempos, and overall emotions. The heavy bass of hip hop, the synth of disco, and the syncopated beats of dubstep all have room underneath the big top.

Here are a few of the widely accepted branches from the EDM tree:

  • Breakbeat
  • Disco
    • Euro Disco
    • Italo Disco
  • Drum and Bass
  • Dubstep
  • Hip Hop
  • House
    • Acid
    • Chicago
    • Deep
    • Garage
    • Ghetto
    • Progressive
    • Tech
  • Jamaican Sound System
  • Jungle
  • Rave
  • Synth-Pop
    • Electro Pop
    • Minimal Wave
    • City Pop
  • Techno
  • Trance
    • Goa
    • Psychedelic
    • Progressive
    • Uplifting

Slow Start, Then Widespread Appeal

In almost every industry, change can be a scary thing and electronic dance music was no different. The perceived drug culture that followed every sect of EDM kept U.S. corporate interest on the sidelines. However, such things didn’t seem to concern Europe, where electronic music flourished.

While electronic music did have a place on the musical fringes of America, it took two decades for mainstream audiences to get on board. Whether it was Daft Punk at Coachella or Justin Timberlake’s “SexyBack” in the mid-2000s, EDM was finding firm footing in the States.

Cynics might tell you it was all just a matter of money. Instead of hiring two or three bands to play for a few hours, bookers found they could hire a single DJ for the entire night and bring in the same amount of people.

Of course, we’d counter that EDM music reaches out to those that didn’t have a voice before. As the music became more accepted, the crowds continued to grow. In 2011, Swedish House Mafia became the first EDM act to sell out Madison Square Garden. Look at the top downloads on Spotify and count the number of songs that take advantage of electronic music.

It’s here to stay. And you want a little piece of it.

What Do I Need to Produce Electronic Music?

A Computer with Enough RAM & Memory
While the dawn of the commercially viable home computer was the first major step of accessibility, advancing technology and the internet has truly brought electronic music production to the masses. Computers and laptops with enough processing power, RAM, memory, and more, are easily attainable – if you don’t already have one.

A Good Pair of Studio Headphones
Beginning EDM producers then have a choice to make: take a methodical, focused approached or just start producing music and let the chips fall where they may. The decision is pretty easy, even if the pull to buy studio monitor speakers, midi keyboards, drum machines, and the like is strong, chances are, you don’t know how any of that gear works yet, so why bother?

At the start, all you really need is a little bit of software and a comfortable set of studio headphones (not Beats). Most professional artists and producers use some kind of Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) to create their work, so you’ll want one too. The headphones are so your roommates (or parents!) don’t vote to kick you out after the first few weeks of practicing making EDM.

Popular DAWs

There is no one digital audio workstation to rule them all. In fact, no matter what DAW you decide to work with, they will all have relatively similar audio interfaces, selection of instruments, and samples and presets. But just like computer keyboards, some will just seem a little more comfortable than others.

The three heavyweight DAWs are Ableton Live 10, Pro Tools, and Logic Pro X. If your favorite artist or producer is one of the 10 or 20 most successful on the planet, chances are they use one of those three. Of course, you aren’t known around the world or even around your block, so purchasing one of these for hundreds of dollars isn’t the right move right now.

Luckily, there are some free and low-cost options out there. Ableton Live 9 Lite and Pro Tools First both offer free trial versions and will give you a solid understanding of how the upgraded software operates. Give both a try and see if one impresses you more than the other. At this point, Logic Pro doesn’t have a free version, although they do offer a discounted student bundle.

After picking your DAW, become familiar with the standard operating procedures. Setting up the stage for your tracks, implementing a kick drum, adjusting the tempo, and other basics. You aren’t necessarily looking to create a song from start to finish now, but how to start working with elements of a song.

The free versions also won’t give you a lot of flexibility with the instruments they provide, the number of tracks you can save, or even the length of the track you can create. That’s fine. You won’t be hitting the stages in Monaco until you get the basics down anyway.

Upgrade Your Gear, Improve Your Learning Curve

After mastering DAW 101, think about where you are. Did it take months to get to this point or quite a bit longer? Is this something you’ll do to blow off steam on the weekend or to eventually showcase in front of a crowd? Either decision is fine, but to make a run at an EDM career, you’ll need to start spending a little cash.

Start by getting a more advanced version of your DAW – it will be a whole new versatile world. As you begin to learn more, you’ll begin to understand what you need. Monitors to help you hear what your audience will hear, midi keyboards for more comfortable control of your instruments, or sample packs for a greater diversity of sounds.

The improved DAW will allow you to incorporate all of your additional tools seamlessly. Because you already know the basics, you won’t be overwhelmed by the new options available to you. Learning how to make EDM music is similar to building a house: a strong foundation leads to strong construction.

The advantage of having a well-known DAW is the availability of online help. YouTube video tutorials, message boards, and even social media can help you find the answers you need. Social media will also give you a platform for your music once you’ve reached that stage. It’s a quick and economical way to get heard, get feedback, and get connected.

But what if there was a way to do all of that in a single location? Consider The Recording Connection.

One-On-One Time With Industry Pros

How would you feel about learning in a studio instead of a classroom? Learning from a mentor with years of experience instead of fighting with trolls on a message board? Getting answers to your questions now instead of wasting hours looking online with vague searches?

That’s what the Recording Connection Ableton Electronic Music Production and Logic Pro Electronic Music Production programs offer. You’ll spend 10 hours a week (or more) with an Electronic Dance Music producer, learning everything you can about digital audio workstations, mixing and mastering, and even how to get your music heard by more people.

It’s more than just the technical side of things, too. Your mentor has been working with others in the industry and, if you prove your worth, may be able to put you in touch with other insiders to help showcase your work. That’s not a guarantee of course, but if you show responsibility, a willingness to learn, and always do what you say you’re going to do, it’s not out of the question.

How does that sound? Apply today.

Get your music production certification and build your music production and audio engineering skills by learning with an industry professional near you.